Eugene Delacroix was a renowned artist of the French Romantic period. He created many stunning patriotic paintings and shaped fine art for decades.
Delacroix’s use of color particularly influenced later Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modern Art developments.
But who was Eugene Delacroix? This brief introduction explores Delacroix’s personal life and his famous Romanticism paintings.
Ferdinand-Eugène-Victor Delacroix, better known simply as Eugène Delacroix, came from Charenton-Saint-Maurice in France. Born on 26 April 1798, he spent his early life in this area in the southeastern suburbs of Paris.
Delacroix’s father (Charles) worked as a minister of foreign affairs for the French government. He also served as a “governmental prefect”, working in the southern French cities of Bordeaux and Marseilles.
Eugene Delacroix’s mother, Victoire Oeben, was a well-educated and highly cultured woman. She encouraged her son’s love of fine arts and literature from an early age.
Sadly, Delacroix’s father died when he was just seven years old. Adding more tragedy, his mother died when Delacroix was sixteen. Family members helped raise the children, and Delacroix attended the prestigious Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris.
Eugene Delacroix soon left school to pursue an art career. An uncle (with good social connections) helped Delacroix join the studio of Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. As a painter focusing on historical and mythological subjects, he inspired young Delacroix.
By 1816, Delacroix formally enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts, the institution that shaped many French artists’ careers in the nineteenth century.
While studying at the École des Beaux-Arts, Delacroix carefully researched Old Master paintings in the Louvre art gallery. He particularly loved the dynamism and dramatic coloring of Peter Paul Rubens and Titian.
Delacroix often focused on religious subjects in his early career. He quickly moved toward historical and literary images, though. Indeed, Delacroix’s first painting exhibited at the Paris Salon was Dante and Virgil in Hell (1822), taking inspiration from the famed Italian poets.
As the 1820s progressed, recent historical events fascinated Eugene Delacroix. His paintings The Massacre at Chios (1824) and Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi (1826) expressed Delacroix’s horror at the atrocities of the Greek War of Independence.
Alongside artists such as Antoine-Jean Gros and Théodore Géricault, the French art establishment hailed Delacroix as a central figure of paintings from the Romantic era.
Indeed, Delacroix portrayed his subjects with powerful drama and emotion. In addition, his dynamic compositions exuded color, movement, and expressive brushstrokes. These factors are all characteristic of Romantic art.
After the success of The Massacre at Chios, Delacroix continued impressing the Paris Salon and the French art public.
Eugene Delacroix Death of Sardanapalus (painted in 1827) was a decadent and opulent scene of an Assyrian king about to commit suicide. It exemplified Delacroix’s romantic approach to “oriental” subject matter.
In contrast, Eugene Delacroix Liberty Leading the People (1830) dealt with contemporary French political events. Created in response to the July Revolution of 1830, it’s famed as one of the most patriotic paintings in the French tradition.
Delacroix’s image presents a woman, with her breast partially exposed, holding a French flag above her head. Surrounded by fighters from across the social spectrum, it’s a rallying call for the French beliefs in liberté, égalité, and fraternité.
One of our most popular oil paintings for sale is Liberty Leading the People, which can also be recreated in the original size of 260cm x 325cm (102.4" × 128.0")
Art Historians believe Eugene Delacroix produced over 9,100 paintings, drawings, lithographs, and sketches during his lifetime. These artworks include 853 paintings and just over 1,500 watercolor and pastel images.
In 1832, Delacroix traveled to Morocco. He collected inspiration and ideas for his art. The trip resulted in famous paintings such as The Fanatics of Tangier (1837) and The Women of Algiers in Their Apartment (1834).
In addition to these “exotic” subjects, Delacroix also pursued his interests in literature. These literary inspirations led to several famous Romanticism paintings, such as The Death of Ophelia (1853) and Hamlet and Horatio in the Graveyard (1839). In addition, authors such as Lord Byron and Shakespeare were particular favorites for Delacroix.
Delacroix’s painting technique transformed Western art. His dynamic compositions, passionate emotions, and vivid colors (inspired by the Venetian school of art) earned admiration and approbation in equal measure.
This painting technique (including focusing on realism and the effects of light and expressive brushstrokes) also inspired the French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements.
Known as “art’s liberator,” Delacroix enjoyed a reputation as an avant-garde bohemian artist. He focused on his art exclusively and intensely, even to the detriment of his health and well-being.
As well as Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Delacroix also inspired the emotional focus of modern art and artists.
In later years, Delacroix spent more time outside of Paris. He often traveled to the French countryside, enjoying the company of friends and cultural figures such as the writer George Sand and the composer Frédéric Chopin.
As well as mythological and historical works, Delacroix widened his subject matter in later life. These experiments included still lifes, nude portraits, and animal artworks, often featuring lions and horses.
Ferdinand-Eugène-Victor Delacroix died on 13 August 1863.
His friends and family buried him in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. As the largest cemetery in the French capital, it also hosts the remains of many leading cultural figures, including Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, and Oscar Wilde.
Delacroix never married. Just before his death, he wrote his will, leaving a gift for each of his friends. He also left enough money for his trusted housekeeper (Jenny Le Guillou) so that she could live comfortably.
In his final years, Delacroix focused on a set of large murals for the Church of Saint-Sulpice in Paris. These monumental artworks included scenes such as Jacob Wrestling with the Angel. Other later religious portraits include the atmospheric Pieta (1850) and Christ on the Cross (1845).
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